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Thursday, 8 November, 2001, 11:11 GMT
Schroeder defends troop deployment
German KSK troops
The elite KSK force is preparing for deployment
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has called on the country's parliament to support the deployment of almost 4,000 military personnel in the US-led campaign in Afghanistan.

Mr Schroeder said that solidarity was "not a one-way street" and reminded the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, of America's support in rehabilitating Germany after World War II.

These barbaric attacks claimed thousands of innocent lives

Gerhard Schroeder
The German deployment would include 100 members of the KSK special forces, ships, a medical evacuation unit and anti-nuclear, chemical and germ warfare equipment.

Mr Schroeder, who wants parliament to approve a 12 month deployment, stressed that they would not be put in the combat zone.

The cabinet gave its approval to the military commitment in a meeting on Wednesday.

Addressing doubts

While the conservative opposition has guaranteed its support for the move there are doubts within the ranks of Mr Schroeder's own Social Democrats.

The junior partner in his coaltion, the Greens, is even more deeply split on the issue given the party's roots in the pacifist movement.

Mr Schroeder sought to persuade sceptics by putting Germany's military commitment within the context of the United Nations and Nato responses to the attacks on the United States.

"We are fulfiling what is expected of us and carrying out what is objectively possible and what is politically responsible in this situation," he said.

German recruits with Gerhard Schroeder and Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping
The deployment would be Germany's first since 1945
He also emphasised that the military campaign was only one strand of the war against terror and said they must undertake "long-term efforts on many levels to meet this challenge".

He also asked people not to forget the horror they felt on 11 September, calling the crashing of hijacked planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon "barbaric attacks".

"I can understand when many individuals, in view of the horror of the images that one cannot look at daily tend towards denial... But that cannot be the guiding principle for political decisions," he said.

He called the military deployment Germany's "practical contribution to solidarity".

Deep divides

The German Foreign Minister and most prominent Green party member, Joschka Fischer, has given his firm support to the military mission despite his party's doubts.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported Mr Fischer had even threatened he might leave the party if it failed to back the force.

Divides are also evident in the general public.

An opinion poll published on Wednesday found 51% in favour and 46% against Germany's involvement in the campaign.

Anti-war sentiments in Germany have run deep since the end of World War II, and for decades the country avoided any foreign military engagements.

Germany's post-war constitution banned the use of the armed forces in international disputes, but a 1994 Constitutional Court ruling made it possible for troops to be deployed abroad under certain conditions.

The court ruled that military actions had to be justified in international law, and to be carried out in co-operation with allies.

In recent years, German forces have played a significant role in peacekeeping in the Balkans, and currently command the operation in Macedonia.

The BBC's Rob Broomby
"Schroeder said it is time to repay the Americans"
Jeff McAlistair, Time magazine
says that America's goal here is political not military
See also:

07 Nov 01 | Europe
Italy commits 2,700 troops to war
06 Nov 01 | Europe
Germany agrees Afghanistan force
15 Oct 01 | Europe
German Greens split on terror war
01 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Schroeder urges EU unity in terror fight
19 Sep 01 | Europe
Germany backs military action
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